For many years Kona — sheltered by Hawaii’s isolated location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean — has been free of the type of crop damage caused by the coffee berry borer (CBB) in most other coffee-growing regions of the world. The CBB is a tiny beetle whose larvae feed on coffee beans and reduce coffee yields.
This past fall a coffee farmer found CBB on his farm in South Kona, a finding that was confirmed by scientists. With the combined effects of the prolonged 2010 Kona drought and CBB damage, some farms in Kona (especially many in South Kona where the drought was worst) have suffered reductions of coffee yields of 60% or more. No one is sure how CBB made its way into Hawaii, but many farmers suspect it was brought in with the millions of pounds of foreign green coffee imported annually into Hawaii for the purpose of producing deceptively labeled ‘10% Kona blends.’
Rancho Aloha — and many other coffee farms in North Kona — have not yet seen CBB in their orchards. However, scientists suggest it is only a matter of time before CBB will be present throughout Hawaii’s coffee-growing areas.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawaii are working with farmers to lessen the impact of CBB in Kona. The good news is that while CBB is damaging, the impact of the pest can be reduced to manageable levels with protective measures — and CBB has not stopped production in other coffee producing regions where it is found.
For more information on the effects of drought and CBB on Kona growers, and efforts to combat other agriculture pests, see these articles:
- Coffee Grinds to a Halt – West Hawaii Today, 4 Feb 2011
- We Have No Bananas – The New Yorker, 10 Jan 2011
- Destructive Bug Infests Hawaii’s Kona Coffee Fields – National Public Radio, 7 Dec 2010